Ah, summertime cookouts. For those trying to lose weight, the abundance of hamburgers, hotdogs, barbeque chicken, creamy potato and pasta salads and bowls teaming with salty snacks can make it hard to stick to a diet plan while still enjoying yourself and the time spent with family and friends. “You work really hard to maintain your weight through healthy eating choices—you’re not going to want to undo all of that effort at one cookout,” says Cheryl Marco, R.D., clinical dietician and certified diabetes educator in the department of endocrinolgy. “The key here is to prepare and plan—deprivation doesn’t have enter the equation.”
Read on for quick and easy tips on savoring smarter throughout the season.
Beef is a calorie dense protein. An 8 oz. beef patty can clock in at 800 calories—and that’s before you top it with cheese. By choosing a leaner meat, you’re saving calories and fat. Build a better burger with lean ground turkey with avocado slices or bison burgers topped with caramelized onions for a healthful (and flavorful) take on the All-American classic. “I would also suggest trying a grilled bean burger or Portobello mushroom patty,” suggests Marco. “Both are full of fiber to keep you fuller longer, and have a have the same texture and umami flavor like beef.”
Your best bet here is to plan ahead and bring your own snack. Don’t expect that there will be healthy snacks—because in my experience, you’re going to find warm cucumber slices decorating a party tray featuring a fatty, processed dip. Piece together a Pinterest-worthy crudité platter—filled with fresh flavors and gorgeous colors. Think endives, bell peppers, sliced watermelon radishes, carrots and English cucumbers paired with your favorite store-bought hummus. Or assemble veggie kabobs to throw on the grill.
Keep Your Cool
Stick with the fruit salad to keep your body cool naturally. Fruits like watermelon, pineapple, strawberries, peaches, cantaloupe and grapefruit all boast a water content of over 80 percent. You’ll not only enjoy the refreshing benefits, but the nutritional benefits as well. When it comes to eating fruit, a good rule to follow is to pair your pick with protein like cheese or nuts, says Marco. This will help keep your blood sugar from spiking from the natural sugars in fruit—which can cause you to feel hungrier.
Speaking of the sweet stuff, be careful for sneaky sugars in cocktail creations and mixed drinks. Liquid calories count and can add up quickly. Slash calories and opt for ice-cold tequila with a splash of club soda and fresh lime juice. Bonus tip: Lose the straw—it will help you sip slower—and make it a rule to follow every alcoholic drink with a glass of water.
Deal on Dessert
Your health is much more complex than a simple calories in vs. calories out equation. “You should let yourself mindfully enjoy what you’re body wants to eat, and not stress over eating any type of food,” explains Marco. While a scoop of ice cream or a piece of your mother’s homemade cherry pie may not provide many nutritional benefits, indulgences feed your soul some happiness.